Today the Everglades Foundation announced a $143,000 grant to the National Park Service which will pay for 50 percent of the cost of an environmental assessment of canals that are harming the ecosystem of Cape Sable.
In the 1920s, several canals were dredged to drain the cape’s interior marshes for agriculture and development. Today, salt water from tidal flow enters the fresh water marshes resulting in their complete collapse. As these marshes are destroyed, the nutrients stored in the soil are released and threaten to trigger algae blooms in Florida Bay. Algae blooms destroy bay habitats that are important to threatened species, recreational fish, and other plants and animals that depend on the bay for survival.
Harm to fish populations damages Florida’s economy by significantly reducing commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and related businesses. Environmental destruction in Cape Sable contributes to ecosystem damage in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Part of the remedy is plugging the canals to prevent the inflow of salt water and the outflow of freshwater.
The Park Service is moving forward to address the damage to the ecosystem caused by the canals. Everglades Foundation scientists are providing expertise in addition to the Foundation’s financial contribution.
“Nearly 100 years ago, the decision was made to destroy much of Florida’s natural ecosystem by dredging. Cape Sable has suffered enormously and the damage threatens Florida Bay. We are grateful that the National Park Service is taking the lead in the effort to restore this vital part of America’s Everglades, and protect Florida Bay which is so important to the economy of South Florida,” said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO.
“Restoring a functioning freshwater ecosystem on Cape Sable will not only improve the water quality in Florida Bay, but will also improve the Everglades’ resilience against sea level rise,” said Everglades National Park Acting Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “We are grateful to the Everglades Foundation for the grant that allows this important project to move forward.”
The environmental assessment is expected to be completed in about 18 months.